FDA officer Frances Kelsey who stopped thalidomide from entering US, dies

During the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was represented by one of its bravest officers ever, Canadian doctor Frances Kelsey. On Friday morning, Kelsey has passed away aged 101. She was particularly known for the tenacity she showcased for keeping thalidomide out of United States.

Kelsey died within 24 hours of being awarded the prestigious title Order of Canada, the second highest Canadian national order. She received the award at a private ceremony organized at his daughter’s place in London, Ontario on Thursday.

Christine Kelsey, daughter of Frances Kelsey, informed the media that the ceremony of Thursday night was initially scheduled for September 2015 and added that the event was preponed after her mother’s health started deteriorating.

As mentioned above, Kelsey used to represent the US FDA as a medical officer during the early 1960s. This was the time when she expressed her concerns about a drug called thalidomide. At that time, use of thalidomide was pretty common in other countries; the drug was used for insomnia and morning sickness in expecting mothers.

Reports suggest that after doctors started prescribing thalidomide to pregnant women in 1950, thousands of babies whose moms took the medication were found to have congenital defects such as excessively short limbs; there were also some who were born without a single leg, arm or him. These birth defects were reported in Japan, Canada, Australia and Europe.

It was not easy for Kelsey to stop the drug from entering the US. The pharmaceutical firm responsible for making thalidomide kept on pressurizing her for allowing the drug to enter America. However, Kelsey stood firm on her decision and continued to refuse the pharmaceutical firm.


Over the years, we have seen a number of lawsuits being filed against Thalidomide. The drug also forced the British government to officially apologize to people badly affected by it. The apology came in 2010; before that the British government agreed to pay a sum of £20 million or $31 million to people harmed by thalidomide.

The New Zealanders and Australians harmed by thalidomide, on the other hand, filed a class action suit against Diageo Scotland Ltd, the British distributor of the drug. The class action suit was settled for a whopping amount of A$ 89 million.


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